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Canadian home sales fall in March, price growth slows: CREA – The Globe and Mail

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Homes on Sherman Brock Circle in Newmarket, Ont.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

Canadian home sales dropped in March and prices fell in some of the country’s hottest markets, as borrowing became more expensive after the Bank of Canada raised interest rates.

The number of resales decreased 5.4 per cent from February to March on a seasonally adjusted basis, with the sharpest drops in Calgary and the Toronto region, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, or CREA.

“March definitely saw a slowdown compared to February in terms of both activity and price growth,” Jill Oudil, chair of CREA, said in a press release. Though Ms. Oudil cautioned that it was too early to say whether the country’s real estate rally was starting to end. “One month does not make a trend, so we’ll have to wait and see if this is the beginning of the long-awaited cooling off of this market,” she said.

The home price index, which tracks the price of a typical home and adjusts for pricing volatility, fell from February to March by low single-digit percentages in regions across southern Ontario such as Brantford, Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton-Burlington.

In other parts of the country where home prices have jumped by more than 50 per cent in two years, the home price index was up by a single percentage point, if at all. Overall, that contributed to the country’s slowest home price growth in six months.

Nationally, the home price index was up 1 per cent to $874,100 from February to March on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to CREA. That was down from the record 3.5-per-cent increase from January to February.

Compared with March of last year, however, the home price index is up 27.1 per cent. Over the same period, the number of home resales is down 16 per cent, while new listings have fallen 10 per cent.

Bank of Canada rate hike could cool Canada’s hot housing markets, economists say

How the Bank of Canada rate hike will affect your mortgage

Realtors say homes are taking longer to sell and that previous marketing tactics are no longer working. That includes underpricing properties and setting a date for offers in hopes of triggering a bidding war. Now realtors say that homes are not fetching as many bidders, and home sellers are not getting the prices they were expecting.

“A lot of these sellers have not come to terms with reality yet,” said Odeen Eccleston, president of real estate brokerage and developer Wiltshire Group in Toronto. “It looks like they’re not going to be getting the same numbers that their neighbours and counterparts obtained,” she said.

In the first two months of this year, houses in the Toronto suburbs were drawing dozens of bids with some selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the asking price. Today, properties are not generating the same level of interest.

In York region, one of the suburbs where the typical home price has risen 70 per cent in two years , Ms. Eccleston said she has observed similar properties selling for $200,000 less than in February.

“It’s the same subdivision, same builder, same five-bedroom model and similar levels of upgrades,” said Ms. Eccleston, who has sold homes in the Toronto region for 15 years.

Activity is expected to wane further this year after the central bank raised its benchmark interest rate twice in two months. The bank has indicated it intends to continue to raise interest rates, which will continue to push up borrowing expenses for would-be buyers.

The cost of a fixed-rate mortgage, where the interest rate does not change over the term of the loan contract, has doubled in about a year, according to mortgage brokers, with the popular five-year fixed mortgage now above 4 per cent. Economists predict that the rise in interest rates will temper demand and lead to dip in prices.

“With the Bank of Canada set to hike rates aggressively, home sales are likely to trend even lower,” Rishi Sondhi, an economist with Toronto-Dominion Bank, said in a note, adding that this will “weigh on price growth.” Mr. Sondhi expects the average home price to fall incrementally in the latter half of the year.

Phil Soper, chief executive officer of Royal LePage, said there are signs that the real estate market is starting to calm down after nearly two years of frenetic bidding wars. Mr. Soper said multiple offer situations are dropping and the gap between the asking price and selling price is narrowing. “It’s getting easier to price properties,” he said.

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NS gas prices jump by 9.5 cents – CTV News Atlantic

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Tuesday was another record-breaking day for gas prices in Nova Scotia after they jumped by 9.5 cents overnight — just four days after they had reached $2 per litre in some parts of the province.

The minimum price of regular self-serve is now $2.08 per litre in the Halifax area, or Zone 1. The new maximum price is $2.10.

The biggest jump was in Cape Breton, or Zone 6, where the minimum price of regular self-serve gas is now $2.10 per litre. The maximum price is $2.12.

There were long lineups at some Nova Scotia gas stations Monday night after the Utility and Review Board announced that it would invoke its interrupter clause at midnight.

The price of diesel did not change Monday. However, the UARB said Tuesday that it would invoke the interrupter clause, and the price of diesel oil would be adjusted at midnight.

The price of gasoline won’t be affected by the adjustment.

The UARB said the price adjustments are “necessary due to significant shifts in the market price” of gasoline and diesel.

Gas prices are showing no signs of letting up as the average price in Canada tops $2 a litre for the first time.

Natural Resources Canada says the average price across the country for regular gasoline hit $2.06 per litre on Monday for an all-time high.

The average was a nine-cent jump from the $1.97 per litre record set last week, and is up about 30 cents a litre since mid-April.

Gas prices have been climbing steadily since late February when oil spiked to around US$100 a barrel after Russia invaded Ukraine. The price jumped to over US$110 per barrel last week.

Record-high gas prices fuel frustration

When Sam Vatcher saw the price at the pumps in Halifax this morning, she was shocked.

“I don’t know how anyone is going to drive anywhere,” said Vatcher.

The latest prices have SUV driver Bill Foster wondering how he will be able to afford fuel going forward.

“I’ve got to get kids to sports and I’ve got to get kids to school,” said Foster. “Other stuff is going to have to get cut out just to pay for gas.”

In addition to the conflict in Ukraine, gas analyst Patrick Dehaan says the high gas prices are also largely linked to the pandemic.

“Canadians and Americans’ global consumption plummeted along with oil prices,” said Dehaan. “To the degree that oil companies started shutting down production. That was the problem.”

Dehaan said, during the pandemic, oil production went offline. Then, as the economy reopened, Canadians started leaving their homes and travelling more.

“Global demand started going back up,” he explained. “But because of the shutdowns, we very quickly developed an imbalance between supply-and-demand that has grown over time.”

As a result, some feel Canadian consumers will move away from oil and gas in favour of electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle advocate Kurt Sampson says he tells his children every day, “when you are older, and when you grow up it will be the opposite. Everybody will be driving electric vehicles.”

Sampson has an app on his phone that tracks fuel savings. By switching to an electric vehicle and not purchasing gas, he is on pace to have yearly savings in the range of $8,000.

“Electric vehicles are cheaper to own and operate,” said Sampson. “If you do the long-term calculation, not just a sticker price, they will save you money. They are also better for the environment.”

Sampson said drivers are increasingly switching to electric vehicles, and with fuel prices continuing to climb, he expects the trend to increase even more in the coming years.

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Shortages of some baby formula in Quebec due to panic buying, U.S. supply issues

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MONTREAL — When Catherine Labrecque-Baker went to purchase hypoallergenic baby formula in mid-April for her six-month-old baby, her Quebec City pharmacist told her there was none left.

In response, Labrecque-Baker travelled to another pharmacy in the city and bought five times the amount she normally does. Then she started to stress as she fed her baby and watched her stockpile slowly shrink.

Her son has an intolerance to cow’s milk protein and relies on Alimentum, a product by American formula maker Abbott, which voluntarily recalled its products in February after four illnesses were reported in babies who had consumed powdered formula from its Michigan plant.

“What am I supposed to do?” Labrecque-Baker asked Monday in an interview. “I cried an entire night, wondering what will I do when I won’t have any more formula.”

The disruptions at Abbott, the United States’ largest formula maker, are causing supply issues for specific hypoallergenic formulas across Canada, according to Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen.

But in Quebec, parents are noticing shortages of other formulas on the province’s pharmacy shelves — a result of panic buying, Wasylyshen said.

“There’s a ripple effect,” she said in an interview Monday, referring to parents like Labrecque-Baker who are scooping up more formula than normal because they fear it will go out of stock.

“We don’t want to see a return to panic buying — that approach doesn’t help anyone,” Wasylyshen said. “Some of our retailers have put limitations in place in terms of what customers can purchase, just to make sure there’s enough for everyone.”

Abbott’s decision to shut its Michigan plant exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on store shelves across much of the United States. The company is one of only a handful that produce the vast majority of the U.S. formula supply, so Abbott’s product recall — involving brands Similac, Alimentum and EleCare — wiped out a large segment of the market intended for babies with allergies or intolerance to cow’s milk protein.

On Monday, Abbott said it has reached an agreement with U.S. health officials to restart production at its Michigan factory, a key step toward easing a nationwide shortage.

Quebec is not facing the same kind of shortages as in the United States, but Wasylyshen said images of empty pharmacy shelves in the province started circulating online, causing anxiety.

The province’s Health Department on Monday said it’s working with Quebec’s association of pharmacy owners, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires, to minimize the shortage’s impact.

“We are looking as far away as Europe to counter this lack of supply,” department spokesperson Marjorie Larouche said, adding that shortages are being noticed across Canada.

Marilie Beaulieu-Gravel of the pharmacy owners association said that after Abbott’s Alimentum formula disappeared from shelves, parents rushed to purchase Nutragimen, another hypoallergenic formula, made by Mead Johnson & Company.

“There isn’t a production issue with this product, but rather a domino effect,” Beaulieu-Gravel said Monday in an interview. “The demands for the products increase sharply and unexpectedly on the market.”

While Nutragimen products are expected to be back on shelves by mid-June, Beaulieu-Gravel said her association isn’t expecting the supply of Alimentum to return before the end of summer.

Meanwhile, some parents, including Labrecque-Baker, are left searching for formula everywhere, even online.

“I looked on Facebook Marketplace, on Kijiji … friends have been looking for me or giving me what they can,” Labrecque-Baker said. “This week, I spent $200 because I can’t wait and risk it. The more I can stock, the more days I can feed my child.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 17, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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If you thought gas prices were high, have you checked out diesel? – CBC News

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There is little relief from pain at the pumps these days, especially as the price of diesel has nearly doubled in the last year.

Diesel is now averaging $2.29 per litre across Canada, and is even more expensive than premium gasoline. In the last month alone, a litre of diesel has climbed by 35 cents.

Some are stuck having to grin and bear it, like Peter Ruiter, a dairy farmer from Ottawa, who relies on diesel to power his farm equipment.

“The reality is I can’t go till these fields by hand — there’s just too many acres to do,” he said.

Rising fuel prices are another blow to consumers struggling with the escalating cost of living, as inflation hit a level in March that hasn’t been seen in decades.

And the sky-high cost of diesel means the transportation of goods has become more costly, as diesel — which is typically more efficient and economical — powers the trucks, the trains and some of the ships our supply chains rely on.


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked a sharp rise in commodity prices, including crude oil. Many countries have introduced sanctions on Russia, which is a major exporter of oil and natural gas. At the same time, demand for fuel is climbing as economic activity picks up around the world.

“There’s been a diesel shortage globally, meaning that inventories are [at an] all-time low. I’ve never seen such low inventories,” Vijay Muralidharan, a senior consultant at Kalibrate, an analytics firm that tracks fuel prices.


Another part of the reason diesel prices have soared across North America is because of record exports from the U.S. Gulf Coast. The majority of the fuel is destined for South America, where countries are burning diesel for electricity as the hydropower supply falls during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter season.

There is an increased reliance on diesel in some of those countries this year, said Muralidharan, because of reduced supplies of natural gas.

Diesel prices are at currently at record highs in many parts of the world, including Canada. (CBC)

It also comes at a time when more and more families are needing assistance, said Emily-anne King, co-executive director of Backpack Buddies, an organization that supplies food to more than 4,000 children in British Columbia.

“It’s really alarming for us to see these price increases,” said King. “Not delivering is simply not an option.… We’ve made these commitments and we will continue to find ways to get there and be there for the families and kids that we support.”

The organization itself is feeling the pinch of sky-high diesel prices, as costs are rising to deliver food throughout the province to families that are struggling to make ends meet.

“These last couple of weeks, we have felt more pressure and received more calls from communities and individuals that are needing support,” she said. “And it just isn’t slowing down.”

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